Are Right and Wrong Actually Right and Wrong?

by Scott Dunkley

America is increasingly embracing “Moral Relativism.”  This philosophy is the belief that moral judgments are only true or false in relation to subjective standards like culture, tradition, or individual preference, and that no standard is inherently better than another.  This is contrasted to “Moral Absolutism” which contends that there are absolute, objective standards of morality and that certain actions are always right or wrong, regardless of the circumstances or context.

The Influence of Relativism

There is no doubt that moral relativism is the predominant view in the U.S.  A study by the Barna Group reports that American adults, by a 3 to 1 margin, feel that moral truth is relative to a person and their situation (64% agreeing vs. 22% disagreeing).  The difference is even more striking among younger Americans.  83% of American teenagers feel that moral truth depends on the circumstances with only 6% saying there are absolutes. Surprisingly, even self-described “born again” Christians agreed with moral relativism, with only 32% saying moral absolutes exist.  According to the Barna study, those accepting moral relativism most commonly used the standard of “whatever feels right or comfortable” in a given situation to decide right or wrong.

We can clearly see these statistics are true if we look at our society.  All around us, from an early age, we are taught that feelings are what really matter.  Countless TV shows teach us to just “follow your heart” when faced with tough decisions.  What used to be considered immoral and perverse is now celebrated and popular (e.g. the Fifty Shades of Grey series celebrates sado-masochism).  Even the Disney movie Frozen teaches kids to sing “No right, no wrong, no rules for me.  I’m free!”

There are several reasons that it is important for Christians to be knowledgeable about the philosophy and influence of moral relativism…

Are Right and Wrong Actually Right and Wrong?